Simply Smiles

This summer, from July 30 to August 8, six students from Greenwich High School participated in the annual summer service trip with Round Hill Community Church to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation in La Plant, South Dakota. Following the trip, they shared about their experience, lessons learned, and how each will approach their upcoming year at GHS differently because of the trip. Watch short video of the trip.

Bethany Johnson (Class of 2017)

My experience in La Plant, South Dakota, was a life changing experience for me. Not only did it further my education regarding the Lakota people, it opened my eyes. After this trip, I have adopted a completely different perspective on life, my family, my friends, my school. On this trip I saw firsthand that many children do not have a fraction of the things I have. I realized that there are so many things that I complain about on a daily basis that these kids would kill to be able to have. It was an amazing feeling to know that I was making a difference in this Lakota community even if only for a week. When I get home and back to school, I will share this story and allow it to change me and how I act with others. After this trip I gained patience and sympathy. I now have a strong desire to help people in my own community no matter what the impact; big or small. Instead of constantly looking at myself and what I may need/want, I want to serve and help others first.

Michelle Garay (Class of 2018)

My experience was amazing. I am going to miss the kids so much. There were a few in the beginning who were rude, but I knew that I couldn’t give up on them. I made sure that I was there for them and I made myself sure that they got to know me before they got to judge who I was. My most memorable moment was when my favorite group of children was sitting with Madison and me while we were making bracelets and talking about life. That came to show that I actually had an impact toward the way these kids looked at us "foreigners." I feel like I am going to stop taking everything for granted because after this week I saw how poorly these kids were living, and I just couldn’t help but to think about how I have it so much better. I’m going to respect my parents because I now see that they are always there for me no matter in any situation. I will also take advantage of the good education I have and become the greatest person I can be.

Kadee Munoz (Class of 2017)

Overall my experience at the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation was an unforgettable journey. From creating a bond with the team to creating special and happy moments with the people at the reservation has been an eye opener. Simply Smiles has not just created a future for these forgotten people but has made a change in my life. We work together as a community to build homes for those in need, we work together creating summer activities, and we work together in creating a united community to help everyone, giving each other a hand when needed, making a change in everyone’s lives with little actions. This upcoming year is an opportunity to do things that I have never done before. I will help those who need it, lend a hand whenever I can, spread tons of positivity toward everyone, and appreciate dearly everything that I am offered and have at every moment possible. I will not give up, and when I fall down I will get right back up to make myself stronger. I am going to make a difference.

Leonard Vargas (Class of 2017)

My experience here was eye opening. I have a better understanding of the native people in America. I never knew that in this country there would be areas that are in so much need. My goal is that someday I would make a difference, and I think I have completed it. However my journey here is not over. I have so many years to live and many more opportunities to make a change wherever I go from now on. Next year I will appreciate what I have. For example, the clothes that I wear and what I eat. These simple things make life better. Simply Smiles has done something big for these people, and I am grateful for that.

Isaiah Melendez (Class of 2019)

One thing I found out this year is that I should appreciate the things I have because others don’t have the opportunity to have these things. I feel that for the rest of my life I should work my hardest to help others when help is needed. I feel like Simply Smiles has done many good things for the people who are in need of food or of people that didn’t get the opportunity to have fun or enjoy their life.


Mehki Williams (Class of 2018)

One thing I should appreciate is taking more care of my stuff and always help my mom out when she asks me. And I should be able to appreciate these things in life because without my mom the others I wouldn’t be able to help people and make a change. Simply Smiles helps with a lot of stuff and keeps all the little kids hopes up and makes sure that they are always happy. Even a smile can create a big change in these kids' lives because they have so little, and I’m glad that we are there for them. I’m really thankful to go help these kids and experience what it’s like. I hope I can go and see a bigger change.

To learn more about the Norwalk-based organization Simply Smiles, please visit their website:
To see photos of the 2016 Summer Service trip, please visit the Facebook page of Round Hill Community Church.
If you are interested in learning more about participation in the upcoming trips to Mexico (February 2017) or to South Dakota (July 2017) please contact Dan Haugh at

Simply Smiles is impactful, sustainable, scalable, and successful. If your sister, your best friend, someone you loved needed help – how would you help them? Would you drop a used coat at their doorstep and walk away? Would you just loan them a small amount of money? Would you keep them at a distance? Of course not. You would sit down, look them in the eyes, and listen. You would learn and understand their situation, their pain. Empathy would well up inside you. Their struggle would become yours. You would commit yourself to helping them in every way necessary. You would fulfill their immediate needs and ease suffering. Then side by side you would work together to put into place the long-term solution – to solve the problem. You would do all of this in a manner that would build your loved one’s dignity. At the beginning, throughout, and in the end – you would look for a smile. This is the Simply Smiles approach to the poverty in our world. Supporters, donors, and volunteers allow them to see the individual in need and give support in this same way – but on a scale of thousands of individuals and growing.   

For more information, please click here.

For more on the trips, read participants' blog entries here.